WARRIOR OF THE DAWN
by HOWARD BROWNE
[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Amazing Stories December
1942 and January 1943. Extensive research
did not uncover
that the U.S. copyright
on this publication
[Illustration: Tharn stared in amazement
at the city that lay before
[Sidenote: From the forest deeps came brutal
killers, and Tharn, the
Cro-Magnon, vowed that vengeance
would be his....]
In Quest of Vengeance
It was late afternoon. Neela, the zebra, and his family of fifteen
grazed quietly near the center of a level stretch of grassland. In the
distance, and encircling the expanse
of prairie, stood a solid wall of
forest and close-knit jungle.
For the past two hours of this long hot afternoon Neela had shown signs
of increasing nervousness. Feeding a short distance from the balance of
his charges, he lifted his head from time to time to stare intently
across the wind-stirred grasses to the east. Twice he had started slowly
in that direction, only to stop short, stamp and snort uneasily, then
wheel about and retrace his steps.
of the herd cropped calmly
at the long grasses, apparently
heedless of their leader's unrest, tails slapping flanks clear of biting
Meanwhile, some two hundred yards to the eastward, three half-naked
white hunters, belly-flat in the concealing growth, continued their
Wise in the ways of wary grass-eaters were these three members of a
Cro-Magnard tribe, living in a day some twenty thousand years before the
founding of Rome.[A] With the wind against their faces, with their
passage as soundless as only veteran
hunters may make it, they knew the
zebra had no cause for alarm beyond a vague suspicion
born of instinct
[Footnote A: Probably no race of man in all history has so stimulated
of scientists as that of Cro-Magnon Man. The origin
the race is lost in antiquity, although its arrival
on the scene was
supposed to have taken place between 35,000 and 20,000 B.C. It is
established, however, that hordes of the white-skinned, strong-thewed
cave-dwellers over-ran, long before the dawn of history, what today is
southern Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. This section of the earth's
surface was sparsely populated, at the time, by Neanderthal Man--the
last of the sub-human fore-runners of Homo Sapiens.
raged between the two. The Cro-Magnards, while lacking
muscles and long, ape-like arms of the Neanderthaloids,
were far more intelligent
the dimensions of their heads; a
in size that of present day man), and gradually
eliminated the native Neanderthals. Between the two, there was little
difference in man-made weapons. The principalweapon
of both was the
club; but, in Cro-Magnon's case, this was augmented by the flint knife,
clumsily shaped but effective. It is entirely possible that the latter
people made use of the rope, both as one of the amenities and as a
weapon of offense.
Cro-Magnon Man was the proud possessor of a virtue
both new and
startling in a world given only to the struggle for survival. This
virtue was Leisure--a period in which he was free to do things other
than kill his enemies, hunt, and eat. He used his leisure
to develop an
artistic sense that found its expression in the painting
scenes from his life. The walls of his cave served as a canvas; his
ochre, he took from the earth. He was the first
Artist; and his paintings, still admirableconsidering
the lack of
guiding precedence, have endured to this day.
In appearance, Cro-Magnon Man was ruggedly handsome, both in figure and
face. He was long-headed, with a short face patterned on the diamond.
The width was extreme, with high cheek-bones slanting up to a narrowing
forehead, and down to a short, firm chin. Above a long, finely
mouth, the strong, usually prominent
nose jutted out imperiously.
smaller than her mate, often reaching no
more than to his shoulders. Possibly she was lovely of face and figure;
we of today have no evidence to the contrary.
There are authorities who insist no finer specimen
of humankind ever
existed than the Cro-Magnard. Whether or not this is true, does not
alter the fact that he was able to carve a secure niche in a savage
implacable world, and, at the same time, place the feet of his
descendants on the path to civilization
and a more sheltered life.--Ed.]
And so the three men slipped forward, a long spear trailing in each
right hand, their only guide the keen ears this primitive
One of the three, a stocky man with a square, strong face and heavily
muscled body, deep-tanned, paused to adjust
his grasp on the
stone-tipped spear he carried. As he did so there was a quick stir in
the tangled grasses near his hand and Sleeza, the snake, struck savagely
at his fingers.
With a startled, involuntary
shout, the man jerked away, barely
fangs. And then he snatched the flint knife from his
loin-cloth and plunged it fiercely
again and again into Sleeza's
When finally he stopped, the mottled coils were limp in death. He saw
then that his companions were standing
erect, staring to the west.
From his sitting position he looked up at the others.
"Neela--?" he began.
"--has fled," finished one of the hunters. "He heard you quarreling with
Sleeza. We cannot catch him, now."
The third man grinned. "Next time, Barkoo, let Sleeza bite you. While
you may die, at least our food will not run away!"
Ignoring the grim attempt at humor, Barkoo scrambled to his feet and
watched, in helpless
rage, the bobbing heads and flying legs of Neela
and his flock, now far away.
Barkoo swore mightily. "And it's too late to hunt further," he growled.
"As it is, darkness will come before we reach the caves of Tharn. To
return empty-handed besides--" One of his companions suddenly caught
Barkoo by the arm. "Look!" he cried, pointing toward the west.
* * * * *
A young man, clad only in an animal skin about his middle, had leaped
from a clump of grasses less than twenty yards from the fleeing herd. In
one hand was a long war-spear held aloft as he swooped toward them.
Instantly the herd turned aside and with a fresh burst of speed sought
to out-run this new danger.
"Look at him run!" Barkoo shouted.
With the speed of a charging lion the youth was covering the ground in
mighty bounds, slanting rapidly up to the racing animals. A moment later
and he had drawn abreast
of a sleek young mare, her slim ears backlaid
at full speed, the young man drew back his arm and sent
his spear flashing across the gap between him and the mare, catching her
full in the exposed side.
As though her legs had been jerked from under her, the creature turned a
in mid-air before crashing to the ground, her scream
agony coming clearly to the three watching hunters.
Barkoo, when the young man knelt beside the kill, shook his head in
"I might have known he would do something like this," he said,
exasperated. "When I asked him to come with us he refused; the sun was
too hot. Now he will laugh at us--taunt us as bad hunters."
"Some day he will not come back from the hunt," predicted one of the
men. "He takes too many chances. He goes out alone after Jalok, the
panther, and Tarlok, the leopard, with only a knife and a rope. Why,
just a sun ago, I heard him say Sadu, the lion, was to be next. Smart
hunters leave Sadu alone!"
Tharn, the son of Tharn, watched the three come slowly toward him. His
unbelievably sharp eyes of gray caught Barkoo's attempt at an
unimpressed expression, and his own lean handsome face broke in a wide
smile, the small even white teeth contrasting vividly
with his sun-baked
He wondered what had caused the zebra herd to bolt before the hunters
could attempt their kill. He had caught sight of them an hour before
from the high-flung branches of a tree, and had hidden
in the grass near
route of the animals once Barkoo and his men had charged
the son of his chief, came up to the dead
zebra and nudged it with an appraising toe.
"Not much meat here," he said to Korgul. "A wise hunter
picked a fatter one."
Tharn's lips twitched with amusement. He knew Barkoo--knew he found
fault only to hide an extravagantsatisfaction
that the chief's son had
succeeded where older heads had failed; for Barkoo had schooled him in
forest lore almost from the day Tharn had first walked.
That had been a little more than twenty summers ago; today Tharn was
more at home in the jungles and on the plains than any other member of
his tribe. His confidence had grown with his knowledge until he knew
nothing of fear and little of caution. He took impossible chances for
the pure love of danger, flaunting his carelessness
in the face of his
former teacher, jeering at the other's gloomy
prophecies of disaster.
Tharn pursed his lips solemnly. "It is true," he admitted soberly, "that
a wiser hunter
would have made a better choice. That is, if he were not
that the meat would run away first. Then the wise hunter
not be able to kill even a little Neela. Wise old men cannot run fast."
Barkoo glared at him. "It was Sleeza," he snapped, then reddened at
being trapped into a defense. He wheeled on the grinning Korgul. "Get a
strong branch," he said sharply....
* * * * *
With the dead weight of the kill swinging from the branch between Korgul
and Torbat, the four Cro-Magnon hunters set out for the distant caves of
Soon they entered the mouth of a beatenelephant
path leading into the
depths of dense jungle
to the west. It was nearly dark here beneath the
over-spreading forest giants, the huge moss-covered boughs festooned
with loops and whorls of heavy vines. The air was overladen with the
heavy smell of rotting vegetation; the sounds of innumerable
in the hunters' ears. Here in the humid jungle, the
bodies of the men glistened with perspiration.
By the time they had crossed the belt of woods to come into the open at
of another prairie, Dyta, the sun, was close to the
western horizon. Hazy in the far distance were three low hills, their
common base buried among a sizable clump of trees. In those hills were
the caves of the tribe, and at sight of them the four men quickened
They were perhaps a third of the way across the open ground, when Tharn,
in the lead, halted abruptly, his eyes on a section of the grasses some
hundred yards ahead.
Barkoo came up beside him. "What is it?" he asked tensely.
Tharn shrugged. "I don't know--yet. The wind is wrong. But something is
crawling toward us very slowly and with many pauses."
Barkoo grunted. Tharn's uncannyinstinct
in locating and identifying
unseen creatures annoyed him. It smacked too strongly
of kinship with
the wild beasts; it was not natural for a human to possess that sort of
"Come," said Tharn. With head erect, the long spear trailing in his
right hand, he set out at a brisk pace, his companions close on his
They had gone half the way when a low moan came to the sharp ears of the
younger man. In it was a note of human suffering
pitiful that Tharn abandoned
and plunged forward.
And then he was parting
the rank grasses from above the motionless
of a boy, lying there face down. From a purple-edged hole in his right
side blood dripped in great red blobs to form a widening pool beneath
Tenderly Tharn slipped an arm beneath the shoulders of the youngster
carefully turned him to his back. Even as he recognized the familiar
features, pale beneath a coat of bronze, he was aware of Barkoo behind
him. Before he could turn, a strong hand thrust
to one side
and the older man was kneeling beside the wounded boy.
"Dartoog!" he cried, his tone a blending of fear and horror
monstrous rage. "Dartoog, my son! What has happened? Who has done this
Weakly the boy's eyes opened. In the brown depths at first were only
weariness and pain. Then they focused on the face of the man and lighted
up wonderfully, while a faint smile struggled for a place on the graying
"Father!" he gasped.
"Who did this?" demanded Barkoo for the second time.
* * * * *
The eyes closed. Haltingly at first, then more smoothly
finding strength in reliving the story, Dartoog spoke:
"It happened only a little while ago. I was near the foot of one of the
hills, making a spear. A few warriors and women were near me; the rest
of our people were in the caves.
"Then, suddenly, many strange fighting-men sprang
out from behind trees
at the edge of the clearing. They were as many as leaves on a big tree.
With loud war-cries they ran at us; and before we could get away they
had thrown their spears. I tried to run; but a big warrior
caught me and
struck me with his knife."
The son of Barkoo fell silent. Tharn, a flaming
rage growing within him,
bent nearer. Behind him were Korgul and Torbat, both very still, their
"Then," the boy continued, "came Tharn, the chief, with our
fighting-men. They came running
from the caves and threw themselves upon
"It was a great fight! Many times did the strange warriors try to beat
back our men, and as many times did they fail. Tharn, our chief, was the
reason. So many men that I could not count them, died beneath his knife
and spear. But at last he, too, fell with a spear in his back.
"While they were fighting I crawled to the trees. Then I got to my feet
and ran this way as far as I could. I wanted to find you, father, that
you might go and kill them all."
Dartoog's voice, growing weaker, now ceased altogether. Twice he opened
his lips to speak but no words came. Then, his throat
swelling with a
supreme effort, he cried out: "Go, father! Go, before they--" His voice
broke, his body stiffened, then relaxed and he fell back, sighing.
Gently the father cradled his son's head in the circle
of his arms. Once
more the clear brown eyes opened. The man bent an ear to the lips
framing further words.
"It--is--so--dark," came the barelyaudible
whisper. As the boy finished
speaking, his body slumped, his head dropped back and life left him.
Barkoo sat as graven in stone, head bowed above the dead body of his
only son. There was no sound but that of the rustling grasses stirring
lazily in the early evening breeze
from the east.
Young Tharn was the first to move. Shaking his head like a hurt lion, he
leaped to his feet, caught up his spear and set out at a run toward the